Category Archives: Education

The Difficulty of Feeling Appreciated

Working as an artist can be a lonely existence. It’s difficult to gauge if things are really working when you’re isolated from your audience. The same can be true when teaching young children; it’s hard to tell if your lessons are being comprehended when your students have a limited capacity for expression. But occasionally something happens to make you realize that things really are sinking in and that you’ve made a difference in someone’s understanding of the world.

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Be the Video Game Developer



The Girl Scouts has created a really cool interactive video that walks viewers though the creation of a video game, including the different job roles at a game design studio and the creative process in a work environment. The video outlines the design decisions and engineering work that go into game creation, all while allowing the viewer to choose different elements for their own custom game. It’s a great way for kids to get an idea of how creative studios function and how teams of people with different talents can work together to create a unique product.

LINK: Be the Video Game Developer

It’s “Arts in Education Week” in America

In 2010 the US House of Representatives designated the second week of September as “Arts in Education Week”. To honor the important role that art has in developing young minds, here are the “10 Lessons the Arts Teach” by Elliot Eisner and the National Art Education Association.


10 LESSONS the ARTS TEACH

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky




“Due to budget cuts we will not be having art class this year.”
The latest American Girl Doll movie, “Saige Paints the Sky” starts with the depressing announcement that art class has been cancelled for 9-year-old Saige’s school. In protest she stages a “beige day” to show the world the importance of creativity in our everyday lives. She works with her grandmother, played by Jane Seymour, to revive the arts in her school and bring some color to the world. The DVD comes out this July 2nd and I’m sure it will be viewed many times by my daughters.

BAARROOOMMM!

Boy recreates the launch of "Imagination I" from EJ Keats "Regards to the Man in the Moon".

Regards to the Man in the Moon read aloud:

I’m creating a “Find the Differences” game for the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and have been using photos of the original art with no text. I just found this video of a couple of children in a library reading the book. It’s been funny for me hearing the way kids read it because I’ve been so focused on the visuals while making the game, rather than the text of the book itself. “Find the Differences” games lend themselves to that because they are purely visual. The children in the video do a great job of both reading the text and describing the visuals.

Board Game Design Success

For the past 6 Fridays I’ve been running an art and design program at HOLA Charter School in Hoboken. I taught a 3-week board game design class to grades k-3. I’ve written about the curriculum in April and last November. Each child received an 11″x 17″ piece of card stock with a pre-printed grid on it. The grids varied by grade; kindergarten drew on large squares while 3rd grade used small hexagons.

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Light and Dark




I’ll never forget the time I was setting up class when a student ran up to me and excitedly thrust a picture he’d drawn at home in front of my face. In the center was a crude image of an airplane engulfed in flames flying directly at a high mountain. To the right was a smiling boy parachuting out of harms way.

“That’s me!” my 3rd grade student exclaimed.

“But who is that?” I said, pointing to the two horrified faces looking out the windows of the doomed plane.

“That’s my sister and my mom!” he said with a smile.

I caught my breath and didn’t know how to react. I was just a 22 year old art grad teaching at a local recreation center. I knew how to encourage children in their positive artistic pursuits but had no idea how to deal with such a dark vision.

His sister sauntered into the room and slumped in a chair as the other students wandered in. I took the image from the boy and put it on a high shelf in a cabinet. “That’s not a very nice way to picture your family. They look like they’re going to get hurt,” I said. “You can have the picture back after class.” He scowled at me and retreated to his seat.

When their mother came to pick them up an hour later I showed her the picture and explained what it depicted. She was taken aback. “That’s mean!” she yelled to the boy. “You love your sister!” She thanked me for sharing the image and dragged the two out the door with the picture clenched tightly in her fist.

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We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Board




My game and mapping class is coming up in May at Hoboken HOLA and today I put together a sample game board to prep. One of my studio mates gave me a piece of photographic seamless paper so I figured I’d try enlarging the game board idea to full table size. I figure a 9’x4′ piece of paper will keep 8 kids occupied drawing mazes. They would each draw a home base and five game spaces. Each section would connect to the next, forming a large loop of about 40 spaces.

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Quiet and Reflective

Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking offers an insightful analysis of how we understand and often misinterpret introversion in children and adults. For example, just because a child is doesn’t participate in a “Mommy and Me” type class at a young age does not mean that the child is not paying attention and doesn’t benefit from listening to music and observing others. She applies this to the business realm as well, showing that great ideas don’t always come from loud, crowded brainstorming sessions but often come from quiet, reflective analysis by individuals of the problems at hand.

On her site she offers a 16 point manifesto. I like number ten:

Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.

Via Brain Pickings

Quieting Down the Classroom

I find that my elementary school classes can be a bit noisy. It’s partly because the kids have been in class all day and drawing is after-school enrichment. It’s probably also because I talked a lot in school and I have a relaxed attitude toward letting students converse with their friends. When I was in 3rd grade I had a teacher who sent notes home every week complaining about my mouth. Eventually my parents pulled me out of that Catholic school and sent me to the public school down the street. Luckily the new school had a teacher who saw and supported my interest in drawing and art and I had a much better time.

But now I find I’m on the receiving end of being talked over and ignored by groups of 2nd and 3rd graders. While I hope the kids enjoy my class, I do need to keep it all in check or I wind up with a rising din of noise, distracted students and a bunch of half finished drawings at the end of class.

Charity Preston posts articles and videos for her Organized Classroom blog and the video above outlines her technique of using red, yellow and green cups to keep the noise in check and let the kids know when they’ve become too loud. It seems like a smart method and I’ll have to see if I can make it work.